Scream 3

on February 04, 2000 by Annlee Ellingson
   The press notes provided for "Scream 3" set up the final act by delineating the rules of a trilogy--"Chapter one sets the rules. Chapter two bends the rules. But in the finale, forget the rules"--a mantra the film applies to itself to its detriment. The opening murder--in this triumvirate traditionally the pic's biggest guest star--immediately breaks tradition, setting a pattern of variations (and disappointments) regarding the supernatural and mimicry.
   Freaked out by her past run-ins with psychos, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has secluded herself in northern California, working under a pseudonym for a women's crisis line, far away from the current production of "Stab 3." But when a series of murders on the set are directly tied to her mother's mysterious past, Sidney emerges and reunites with ambitious newswoman Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox Arquette) and ex-cop Dewey Riley (David Arquette), now a technical advisor on the film, to solve the case.
   It soon becomes apparent that Sid, of course, is the killer's victim of choice, but her encounters with him (or her or them) aren't always believable, due to her frequent visions of her dead mother coming back to haunt her and her stalker's uncanny ability to mimic anyone in the cast--elements that, again, diverge from the original "Screams" and borrow from other horror movies rather than innovate.
   One would think that a franchise so obsessed with its own genre would have a heyday on a movie set, but the humor here is derived from slapstick and caricatures and the occasional semi-entertaining cameo rather than witty self-awareness. Even the quasi-motivation of killing off cast members in the order they die in the script is swiftly rewritten.
   As for the identity of the killer, and this may sound naïve, but it's never felt so contrived. Throughout "Scream 3," the viewer is continually reminded that all bets are off, even by Sid's deceased buddy Randy (Jamie Kennedy) whose brief reappearance is the best couple of minutes in the film, but ultimately the "rule" feels more like an excuse than an explanation. Starring David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox Arquette, Patrick Dempsey and Scott Foley. Directed by Wes Craven. Written by Ehren Kruger. Produced by Cathy Konrad, Kevin Williamson and Marianne Maddalena. A Miramax release. Horror. Rated R for strong horror violence and language. Running time: 115 min
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